Mobile Mavens

A playground for creativity, but Indie Mavens unsure about Apple Watch's commercial potential

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A playground for creativity, but Indie Mavens unsure about Apple Watch's commercial potential

After months of rumours, Apple's marketing chief Philip Schiller revealed the Apple Watch alongside the iPhone 6, and a new mobile payment system called Apple Pay.

Apple's leap into the world of smart watches didn't come as much of a surprise, but it did raise a number of questions. Key among which, for us, are "Who will buy one?" and "Is anyone interested in developing games for it?"

We've already accrued our own small batch of data to help towards an answer for the first question. Out of the 20 Steel Media staff that were asked whether they're looking to purchase an Apple Watch, only two said yes, while a third answered with a maybe. 

As to the second question, we already know that EA is prototyping "wearable experiences" for Apple Watch. But what about the rest of the game creators out there?

That's when we turned to our Indie Mavens.

What did this bunch of creative types think about the Apple Watch? Did they have any ideas in mind that would work on its tiny screen? We asked them a simple question to find out:

Are you interested in buying or developing games for Apple Watch?


Eline Muijres Producer Game Oven

I'm very interested in the Apple Watch! I can't wait to play around with it and see what kind of ideas we can come up with. This might be cool especially with games that mainly take place outside of the screen (or don't necessarily need one).

Instant coolness for your wrist

I'm interested to see what games you can make using just a heart rate sensor and accelerometer, for example.

Could you play JS Joust with an Apple Watch? What if you play a game that changes based on your heart rate?

Nathan Vella Co-founder / President Capy Games

While I have no personal interest in the device, I can imagine a world where people create amazing games for it.

If I was Apple, I would be knocking on the door of Game Oven, Die Gute Fabrik & other well known 'physical game' makers, and handing them the keys to the playground.

Jon Ingold Creative Director Inkle Studios

Jon's focus is on content, working from the initial outline, through the development of the authoring tools, to the writing and scripting of final content.

Previously, Jon was a lead designer at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, and before that a secondary school teacher, so he loves to talk. He's a published author of short stories and over a decade's worth of award-winning interactive fiction.


Short answer: no, it looks really dumb.

Longer, smarter answer: I said exactly that about the iPad and now look what I do for a living.

Time to make that Threes clone.
Jon Ingold

Say what one likes about Apple, they generally move culture to them rather than creating products people already know they want, so I'm sure the existence of this thing is down to there being good affordances for it.

And games will be there soon enough. Could be great for crowd-based games; hunting targets in groups and coordinating in real physical space. Not much good for reading though, so I'm not sure how inkle will fit in!

Also, time to make that Threes clone.

Joshua Boggs Founder, CEO, and Creative Director RiffRaff Games

I think you can do some really interesting things with it as a supplement.

Example - say you're playing a horror game, or a dramatic romance game, and wearing the Watch. It could be measuring your pulse, and decide when to up the drama based entirely on your current physiological state.

With a decent internet connection, you could even have it work over to consoles.

Andy Wallace Developer Andy Wallace

People made a big deal about the Pebble, and we know where that is now.
Andy Wallace

I'm with Jon on this one. People made a big deal about the Pebble, and we know where that is now.

Apple does have a track record of selling products nobody knew they wanted, but I'm not convinced that smart watches will take off in any appreciable way.

I don't doubt that there are a lot of possibilities for the device, and I agree that developers like Die Gute Fabrik could do something cool with it, but I have to wonder if the install base will be there to back it up.

Maybe I'm wrong, but at least for the time being, I won't be developing for it.

Nicolas Barrière Designer Double Stallion

It's an interesting proposition! I see a lot of potential to promote both physical play and scheduled/asynchronous games (like Dreeps) as design spaces to explore. It will definitely enable some access to light biometric data useable to adjust gameplay, which was not available in the past.

I'm very curious to see more minimalist games, virtual toys and interactive tools.
Nicolas Barrière

I'm very curious to see more minimalist games, virtual toys and interactive tools for the hardware. For more complicated games, it could at the very least be used as a small second screen to offer more information as bonus incentive to Apple Watch owners.

It possesses some interesting constraints, but I am not seeing a lot of appeal for myself. The hardware will be marketed as a lifestyle and fitness extension for iPhones and is priced to reflect that. I'm a bit wary at the potential overlap between that particular demographic and regular game players.

If you think about the Apple Watch in terms of a gaming add-on, it is definitely cost prohibitive. I don't foresee the market to be large for some time.

All in all, my outlook is positive but it's not something I'd invest time and effort right now. But I personally can't wait to see what inventive folks do with it in the long run!

Simon Smith CEO / Owner thumbfood

We need to realise that the iWatch isn't a format, like PlayStation, Xbox, or iOS - it's an "add on" device like MegaCD, steering wheels, or the Kinect camera - and is pretty useless without an iPhone/iPad.

There's always a percentage of people who will buy the add on device but then you have to convince them to buy your game for that device. So a dwindling percentage of a percentage is not great.

The "Apple effect" will mean people buy it, and I probably will, but I can't see it being a big earner for App developers on its own.

Maybe as an addition to an app you buy for your iPhone or even an extra in-app purchase, but very few people are going to get rich from making iWatch-only software.

Pavel Ahafonau Co-founder Happymagenta

I second what Simon Smith said.

Dan Menard CEO Double Stallion

I'm with Nicolas Barrière on this one.

Justin Smith Developer Justin Smith

I love the constraints of the tiny screen. I'm definitely going to put a simplified version of Desert Golfing on it.

Cool and/or wouldn't be caught dead wearing one?

And I have an idea for a custom watch face that is also a game. I think the the iWatch is really cool but wouldn't be caught dead wearing one.

Christian West Developer Christian West

Right now I don't know what I'd want from apps running on the Apple Watch. I will buy one at launch and use it for a few weeks before making any decisions.

I'd like to make something that genuinely benefits users and works properly for the device. I haven't owned a watch in years and I am excited about this, especially for use in sports.

I will read through the SDK documentation as soon as it's available. I'm hoping we'll be able to use all the sensor data in our iPhone and iPad games.

I'm more excited about using the data from the watch to influence my games than using my games to notify a player via their watch.

Kepa Auwae Business / Design RocketCat Games

If Apple approached me personally asking us to make an iWatch game, probably.

Otherwise, I don't think I really have the resources to devote myself to another platform, on top of all the others.

With an affinity for eccentricity, as well as anything macabre or just plain weird, Chris searches for the games that fly under the radar. If you ask him, anything can be a game. Oh, and a game can be about anything, if you put enough thought into it. So, there.